David Leitch talks about Hobbs and Shaw, taking risks, and his upcoming Netflix movie
With Hobbs & Shaw opening in theaters this weekend, I was lucky enough to chat with director David Leitch about the Fast & Furious spin-off film as well as his long career in Hollywood dating back to the mid-90s where he started off in television as a stunt actor. We discuss a lot about his career including some of the people that he has worked with as well as his upcoming film, The Division which will premiere on Netflix sometime in the next few months.
While the majority of this interview is spoiler-free, there is some mention of the surprise cameos in the film. I would advise you to skip over that section of the interview until you see the film because I wouldn’t want to ruin any of the fun for you if you haven’t already seen it.
Scott: Good Afternoon, how are you, David?
David: I am good, man. How are you?
Scott: I am doing good as well, how are you feeling after a long press day and the premiere?
David: I am feeling good; I think we set out to make a big summer popcorn movie that has a lot of heart and I think we delivered on it. We watched a couple of audiences, people are laughing and they’re getting sort of emotional in the right places. I’m proud of it, I really am. We achieved what we set out to do a year ago.
Scott: Yeah, I think this is a great end of a summer movie. I saw it with a crowd, a few weeks ago, and I will tell you that they ate this film up like a big old piece of cake.
David: Good, I mean when I spoke to Dwayne about this movie originally, it was like we want to make something for the Fast fans, but we want to make something that everyone can enjoy. We set out to make it a rollercoaster ride, and we get to play with some tones that you don’t get to play in the Fast world so much and we got to have a little bit more fun with Hobbs and Shaw, their characters, and see a little bit more of the world and some of its surprises. We’re having a blast and we’re just trying to let people know that that’s the movie they should expect.
Scott: Yeah, I think you did a really great job with the tone. It really does feel very different from anything in the Fast franchise. I mean it has the over the top action which I think everyone was expecting from all the trailers, but it doesn’t feel like a Fast and Furious movie which I like and I also just like that it works as a standalone movie and that you can build your own franchise now off of this film.
David: Well, we accomplished creating a really rich world. It all goes back to the core of it is the dynamics between Hobbs and Shaw, Jason and Dwayne are so good together, their chemistry. But we got to surrounded by movie stars, that doesn’t happen. It’s sort of like humbling that we get Idris Elba to come in and play the villain and populate our world. Then we get Vanessa Kirby who’s this blossoming star, and she comes in to deliver an incredible performance as Shaw’s sister. We have a really rich world and there’s a lot of places we can go and I’m excited about, I think the studio is too.
Scott: They’re going to have a nice box office return this weekend. To jump in, there’s so much to talk to you about, I want to first and foremost say that it’s pretty impressive, you started off with John Wick, which you got producing credit, but you actually are uncredited as the director on. Then you went to Atomic Blonde and then you jump into the franchise world with Deadpool 2 and followed that up with this movie. So, original versus franchise, what do you like about each of those?
David: That’s a really good question. I guess I would say original is fun, but there’s a box involved and there’s a price involved, but you can also be bolder because you’re really swinging for something to resonate through all the noise. Having a platform of a franchise, there’s a beloved character, like Deadpool or Hobbs and Shaw, is liberating in some ways because you have more resources, you have an audience that’s anticipating something. But then you also carry the baggage of expectation. They both have their pluses and minuses and I have to say, I do try to approach them all as original pieces. They both have their strengths and weaknesses.
Scott: Is there any particular fear that you have as a director when you come on to something like this? I mean these are two major franchises. Deadpool, I don’t think anyone expected the first Deadpool to go over as well as it did, and you coming on board for the sequel. Then this one, of course, being a franchise film that already is beloved.
David: Yeah, there’s nerves with the expectation, but I guess it’s kind of back to the original thought. There’s also an opportunity with that and I guess I’m nervous as an artist like everybody else. You’re putting your work out there to be judged, but again if you can approach it from the story and the characters and you be authentic to the material and be honest with yourself as a filmmaker and try to put your own stamp on things. I try to lead with this confidence and say bold choices, people want fresh ideas so don’t be afraid.
Scott: I think that’s great. I think that’s what I like about both those movies even though they’re in a franchise world. I think you’re a very bold director and you make some really hard-hitting decisions. Whether it comes to comedy or action elements, I think you really nail that.
David: Thank you, thank you. I think people play it too cautiously, studios play it cautious, and filmmakers will play it cautiously. I get it, there’s a lot of money and resources on the line, but at the end of the day I think people want bigger ideas.
Scott: Oh, I completely agree. I wanted to ask you, I looked up your career, I knew about you from a directing standpoint, but I looked up your history in Hollywood and you were a stunt coordinator for quite some time before you went on to do some producing and now, you did some directing. However, a big chunk of your career has all been in the action genre. What is it about that genre that truly speaks to you?
David: Well, I think it’s my entry point into the business and probably the longest stint of my career was as a stunt man or stunt performer. So, that’s just in my blood, I came into the business as a martial artist. I worked on television shows as a stunt performer and slowly began to choreograph fight scenes for those shows and worked my way up in the business as a stunt coordinator. Then learning obviously cutting and directing fight scenes myself, that brought me to the director’s chair as an action director and then into directing. I’m a huge lover of action films and I was an “action guy” for so long that I just know that part of the business inside and out. I have a really different perspective of it and I think a lot of other directors, they weren’t a stunt man.
Scott: Yeah, it’s interesting because I think a lot of filmmakers start off doing something completely different in the industry and hearing your story it is a fascinating fact that a lot of filmmakers have that same type of story.
David: Yeah, you have to come from somewhere and usually wherever you started your roots, that becomes part of who you are as a filmmaker.
Scott: I know this is totally random, but I have to ask because I actually looked this up and I thought it was really funny, so you actually did stunts for BASEketball and Orgazmo.
David: I did, I did.
Scott: What was it like working with Trey and Matt?
David: It was great, the first time I worked with them was on Orgazmo and they were hot off of the Jesus cartoon that they did.
Scott: Oh yeah, before South Park even started.
David: Yeah, it was before South Park. The Jesus versus Santa Clause, right? Then BASEketball, I think they just sort of signed their deal and they were starting to do South Park and they were becoming more of a phenomenon. In both of those films, they were trying the bit at acting and doing some acting. So I was doubling Trey Parker and that was just a really fun time, brilliant comedic minds and I was just a young stunt guy and they were just young filmmakers trying to make jokes and its funny, if I run into them now we’ll say “hi”, I haven’t probably seen them in 10 years, but it’s pretty crazy times. A lot of weird intersections like that in the business, if you’ve been in it as long as I have.
Scott: Yeah, I was looking through everything and I thought, “Wow, that’s really different.”
David: BASEketball, you’re digging deep. BASEketball, I love that movie.
Scott: There’s a great fight scene in BASEketball, the tiki torch fight on the cheater board.
David: Yes, I choreographed that, so I’m very proud of that.
Scott: That was a great movie that was very underrated, I think it’s a cult classic now, but I remember how hard that movie bombed when it came out. Again, original ideas, right? Take risks, original ideas, nobody wanted to do that.
David: They were bold filmmakers and writers and it worked for them. I mean South Park is undeniable and the stuff that they’ve done since then, obviously undeniable, bold choices.
Scott: What was the thought process behind incorporating multiple cameo appearances from people who are in Deadpool 2 into Hobbs & Shaw?
David: Well, it’s really nice as a filmmaker to be able to touch base with people that you’ve had a pleasure working with in the past. I was really grateful that those guys wanted to come out and play. I guess it used to be in old Hollywood, people used to do that all the time and there would be nice actors and directors can come back and sort of do this more often.
Scott: So, I have to ask, and I apologize because this is a spoiler but was it Dwayne’s idea to get Kevin Hart to make the appearance.
David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean we had that character in mind and we needed sort of a Leo Geps kind of character that can transport these guys around the world in classic sort of in the action movies fashion. So, I think Dwayne having some side conversation because Kevin was really interested in being part of the world and just seemed like the right fit so we designed it for him and he came in and did us a solid. He’s so funny in the movie and so talented, pretty grateful to have him on board.
Scott: Yeah, I thought that was great. The Deadpool actors were more of a surprise. But it was kind of like, when he turned around in the airplane I’m like, “of course!” but it is a great moment.
David: Great. When we’re building this movie, we just kept thinking about, “What would the audience want? How can we make it as fun and fulfilling for people in just two hours of escape?” The cameos, sometimes people just think like, “Oh that’s just a cheap get” and it’s not. It’s actually hard to have those relationships and get people to come and do this stuff and I think it’s a testament to Dwayne and hopefully, myself that people want to play and do something special for the audience.
Scott: I don’t think you can get any more of a fan favorite than those two together. The audience just howled at that, they really loved it. I wanted to ask you; I don’t know if it was an issue, but it was very different for me because it was a little jarring at times. The ending of this film felt totally different from the rest of the film. What was the thought process behind that?
David: Well I think we were balancing three things in the movie. Obviously, we wanted to have a big spectacle, action theme right, that are worthy of a Fast Universe. We wanted to have the fun and the humor that we just talked about with our special guests and the unique comedy that Hobbs and Shaw are delivering, but there’s also a big theme of family and there’s a big heart in this movie. So, I think ending in Hawaii, playing Crista Moa, and ending on our heroes putting aside their differences and working together was a big thematic thing for me.
As a filmmaker, you always have to hang your hat on some moral to the story and I think in Deadpool 2, it was nature versus nurture. Is the kid worthy? Are we creating a monster or is he a monster? I think here it was like, can people put aside their differences and get along and save humanity? The other big one is the family coming together. Both Hobbs and Shaw are estranged from their siblings and I guess I wanted people to walk away from this movie going and picking up the phone and calling that estranged loved one because it shouldn’t take a global-ending virus for you to call your family. I think our characters were confronted with that and obviously, they’re wrapped up in the plot, but at the end, we get to see them emotionally reconnect with their family. So for me, those were big themes and I wanted to give them the time they needed at the end of the movie.
Scott: Yeah, maybe I just felt that way because it was so different than the majority of the film. I get that it can go that way. Maybe upon second viewing, I’ll appreciate that a little bit more. It just was strange like the tone was so on point for about 75% of it and then it just makes that turn and I’m like, “This is surprising.” I know I have to wrap this up and you probably can’t talk about it, but I saw that you’re doing a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain. Can you tell me anything about that?
David: Well, it’s a movie called The Division and it is based on a Ubisoft video game. Netflix is doing it. Kelly McCormick and myself are producing with Jessica and Jake. It’s a big post-apocalyptic game that we’re all really excited about. Again, there are some big themes in it about saving humanity. I think that people coming together to restart humanity and I like to touch on those big themes even in these big commercial movies. So, again that’s kind of why you saw the ending of Hobbs & Shaw trying to touch on some bigger ideas with our popcorn movie.
Scott: That’s awesome. Well, thank you so very much, it was so awesome talking to you.
David: No worries man, thank you. Had a great time chatting with you.
Scott: Same here, alright have a great one.
Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw is now playing